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story.lead_photo.caption Melissa Allen, from left, community-programs director for the Community Action Program for Central Arkansas in Conway; Walter Callahan, volunteer; and Myracle White, pantry coordinator, hold some of the record 31,340 pounds of food collected by Conway, Mayflower and Vilonia residents through the 26th annual Letter Carriers’ Stamp Out Hunger Food Drive.

CONWAY — A record 31,340 pounds of food were donated during the 26th annual Letter Carriers’ Stamp Out Hunger Food Drive, said Melissa Allen, community programs director for the Community Action Program for Central Arkansas in Conway.

“It’s just amazing,” Allen said. The previous record was last year, with 29,013 pounds.

“Every year, CAPCA is the recipient,” she said. “We go out, and we run the routes and pick up food. Then we sort it on the docks at the Conway post office.”

She said the food was collected May 12 from residents in Mayflower, Vilonia and Conway. The Greenbrier community donates the food it collects to a church, Allen said.

Although it was still a record, Allen originally thought the amount was under 30,000 pounds. She told Myracle White, the pantry coordinator, on Wednesday that another crate of food was still at the Conway post office.

Allen said VIRCO Manufacturing Corp. in Conway loans the nonprofit organization a semitrailer to haul the food to CAPCA’s headquarters in Conway.

“That food is what helps us get through the summer. We see a rise in families needing assistance during the summer” because children are out of school, Allen said. The food will last into the early fall, she said.

“We”ll go through the food really fast,” she said, “but it allows us to be able to provide more emergency food assistance.”

She said the agency tries to put enough food in each box to make five meals for low-income families. Allen said many of CAPCA’s clients are seniors.

White showed the large “cage” in the warehouse that had been empty before the food drive. It was full on the bottom and stacked up to the top in several areas with boxes of food.

She said just a small number of goods had to be thrown out because the expiration date had passed.

The food pantry is open from 8:15-11:30 a.m. and from 1:15-4 p.m. Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday.

“But if somebody comes in on a Thursday or Friday and has absolutely no food and doesn’t know how they’re going to get by, we’re going to give them at least a bag of food,” Allen said. “This postal food drive allows us to be able to do that because we can only do that with the donated food. If we didn’t have such an amazing

food drive, we wouldn’t have the ability to do that.”

Also, the third Thursday of each month is the mass commodity food distribution through the U.S. Department of Agriculture. This month, however, it’s this Thursday.

“They send out different foods, so we never know what it is,” she said.

“Because of the postal food drive, … we were really slammed and have a lot of catching up to do,” she said.

Not that she’s complaining, she said.

Senior writer Tammy Keith can be reached at (501) 327-0370 or tkeith@arkansasonline.com.

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